2014 has been a largely rocky year for the sport of boxing, particularly when it comes to quality fights on premium cable and pay-per-view in the United States. But there have been a lot of highlights and some strong years for plenty of fighters.
It's the sort of year where there are plenty of fighters with a decent argument for being Fighter of the Year. While you may have a favorite, or at least a solid two or three top contenders, let's take a look at 10 guys. Why 10? Because it's a round number, and it allows us to include some famous people in the article.
Wins: Alfredo Angulo (TKO-10, 3/8); Erislandy Lara (SD-12, 7/12)
Pros: One solid win and one very good win. The fight with Angulo was a cleverly-matched tune-up that did well on pay-per-view against expectations, which makes it the one of seven U.S. pay-per-view fights that actually met or exceeded the hopes for buys. (It was also the first PPV of the year.) The win in July over Lara sold pretty poorly, but it's the much better victory. Also, Alvarez is really famous.
Wins: Ricky Burns (UD-12, 3/1); Yuriorkis Gamboa (TKO-9, 6/28); Ray Beltran (UD-12, 11/29)
Pros: Three very solid wins on the year, and Crawford may be the 2014 breakout star of boxing in the States, drawing crowds of 10,000-plus in Omaha for his wins over Gamboa and Beltran. The WBO title win over Ricky Burns on the road in Scotland was good, but came with the asterisk that Burns had already clearly lost to Beltran in 2013. That said, Crawford then dominated Beltran on his way out of the division, beating the best opponent out there, and doing so convincingly. His exciting summer win over Gamboa was one of the best premium cable fights of 2014, too.
Wins: Osumanu Adama (TKO-7, 2/1); Daniel Geale (TKO-3, 7/26); Marco Antonio Rubio (KO-2, 10/18)
Pros: Golovkin has picked up a ton of buzz the last couple of years. Geale and Rubio were both top 10 types in the division, which helps ignore that Adama was a lousy opponent, a pure money fight in Monaco. GGG is becoming an organic star because of the way he dominates his opponents. He's an exciting fighter who has garnered attention from beyond the insular boxing world, and when you look at the way his HBO ratings have increased, it's pretty remarkable. Remember when he was a TV flop in his HBO debut in 2012? Ancient history.
Wins: Juan Kantun (TKO-6, 2/15); Juan Purisima (TKO-3, 4/6); Akira Yaegashi (TKO-9, 9/5); Rocky Fuentes (TKO-6, 11/22)
Pros: A pair of stay-busy wins to start the year, but he handled the credible Yaegashi and Fuentes just as easily. Gonzalez is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, a former champion at 105 and 108 who is now a champ at 112 and shows no signs of slowing down. He gets no U.S. TV exposure, but this is a great fighter.
Wins: Adrian Hernandez (TKO-6, 4/6); Samartlek Kokietgym (TKO-11, 9/5)
Note: Inoue has one more fight left in 2014 which will either significantly help or kill his case.
Pros: Wins over Hernandez and Samartlek are both strong, and the 21-year-old Japanese fighter has emerged as perhaps the best 108-pound fighter in the world. If he beats Omar Narvaez for a 115-pound title on December 30 in Tokyo, he's got a really good argument in a crowded year.
Wins: Alex Leapai (TKO-5, 4/26); Kubrat Pulev (KO-5, 11/15)
Pros: Klitschko's two wins are of drastically different quality, but like Gonzalez, he dealt with top contender Pulev just as easily as he did non-contender Leapai. Also, Klitschko is really famous.
Wins: Cedric Agnew (KO-7, 3/29); Blake Caparello (TKO-2, 8/2); Bernard Hopkins (UD-12, 11/8)
Pros: Like Golovkin, Kovalev has broken out as a star because of the way he fights. Unlike Golovkin -- and with due respect to Golovkin's situation -- Kovalev now has a true signature win over an elite fighter, shutting out Bernard Hopkins on November 8. That late-year win might help Kovalev's case in large part due to timing. It's the most recent huge statement, and one of the legitimate biggest of the year.
Wins: Marcos Maidana (MD-12, 5/3 and UD-12, 9/13)
Pros: His two wins over Maidana were both more exciting than the average Mayweather domination, and the first fight in particular drew some strong reviews for entertainment. Mayweather, at 37, is probably still the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. At any rate, nobody has overtaken him. Also, Mayweather is really famous.
Wins: Timothy Bradley (UD-12, 4/12); Chris Algieri (UD-12, 11/22)
Pros: Got his official revenge on Bradley with a convincing victory in April, then obliterated Algieri on November 22. Also, Pacquiao is really famous.
Wins: Vic Darchinyan (KO-5, 5/31); Nonito Donaire (TKO-6, 10/18)
Pros: Both of his 2014 victories were good ones. Darchinyan is past his best and small for featherweight, but he's still tough and can give guys a hard night. That fight didn't draw much attention in the U.S., since it took place on a Macau card that didn't involve Manny Pacquiao. But Walters' October smashing of Donaire is another story. Though Donaire also appears past his prime, Walters knocking him out was extremely impressive and made his name.